As the number of Chinese college graduates increase each year, vast numbers are competing for the few white-collar jobs available in the Chinese market. The mass education of China’s populace in the last decade, which was meant to prepare a generation of college graduates for skilled labor, have quadrupled the number of students looking for work each year. Some of the best are recruited to work in firms aimed at strategic expansion to the West, but many are left jobless and with few marketable skills to transfer to today’s competitive job market.
The severity of the employment problems reflects the structural mismatch of the Chinese education system. College graduates, who are accustomed to seeing themselves as part of the college elite, have an aversion to factory jobs. Manual labor, according to their perspective, is, in many ways, reserved for the less-educated. The proliferation of narrow majors in colleges is also not always practical in real-world environments. Without the technical knowledge and industry expertise necessary for large corporation and dream jobs, many of China’s graduates are left in unemployment after graduation. According to past Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, only 78% of the college graduates from the previous year have found jobs. The New York Times questions this figure, stating that it might be potentially an overestimation.
Chinese officials are acutely aware of this problem, as it poses a potential threat to the country’s social stability. During the decade-long push towards mass education, China wanted to produce a multifaceted labor force similar to the United States and Europe, in which the public becomes better educated with marketable skills useful for the corporate world. However, the recent growth rate of the country has slowed, which means less employment opportunities for college graduates.
In China’s current five-year plan, the government has laid out seven national development priorities that appear to be designed to foster growth in new industries, such as alternative energy and energy efficiency. These new industries are meant to groom a new generation of young graduates who would contribute towards China’s increasing industrial prowess. However, some have noted that obstacles in innovation and creativity in China’s educational system have continued to hinder the nation’s capacity for competition on an international scale with its American or European counterparts.
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